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Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss…
MAN THE MEASURE
Applied Number – Class 4 – Middle Lesson
4 is the Number of the Earth – the 4 incarnations of our planet from Ancient Saturn. 4-limbed man is the primary earth habitue, from which, in the Anthroposophic/anthrocentric view, all of creation is ultimately derived.
Class 4 is therefore the Year of the Earth in child development terms; a time when the ego forces descend into the Life Body of the child. This ‘body of formative forces; is itself, over the 7 years of primary, incarnating into earth existence. This process in Class 4 is nominally the Conceptual Aspect of the Etheric Body – or ‘ego’ aspect. This quattro ego/earth faculty is like a sprouting seed in the soul of the 9-year-old child; one which silently yearns to know its own nature – especially in relationship to tis planetary home.
There is no better lesson to exemplify this, that Man the Measure, where the human being becomes the bench-mark – the unit of measure – for all creation. How many average paces is the Equator? What is the comparative sizes of a whale, mouse and human brain? How many ’10—year-olds’ tall is that pine tree in the playground? Whatever measurements are entertained in this lesson, Man – big, small, fast, slow – must be the reference point.
In the unfolding of the so-called ‘epochs’, or more correctly in primary school, the Civilizations, Class 4 are young Egyptians. This great people, to embrace the generic concept which includes all the 1000 to 3000 B.C. cultures in the River Crescent, developed the Sentient Soul – in an incipient form, that related in 10-year-olds to the etheric body. Their ‘life’ senses are particularly acute, and cry out for recognition. Sentient Soul is conscious sensory activity; they, like the Egyptians are staring at the horizons of their world.
So the senses monitor the wide range of concepts and images presented in this content-rich lesson. The vernal sign of Ancient Egypt was Taurus; the sign which cultivates ‘Rationalism’ in human cultural life. This is one of the 12 Philosophical Standpoints give to an ungrateful humanity by Rudolf Steiner. Looking at the 12-sided Tree of Truth, maths occupies a 30° view!
This spiritual largess assures a potentially active response from the children in this unit. If this love of learning is not present, one must consider where one is erring. Even the most cursory glance at Egyptian culture (in particular) will see an obsession with Man as a manifest being. Even Noah’s – of the same relative period – measurement of Man, in terms of length, breadth and height, with the 7 ‘windows’ and so forth, is confirmation of this. Oh I know he was ostensibly measuring his ark, but we all know this to be a metaphor for the newly-hardened human corporeal body, fleeing The Deluge – Atlantis!
A good example of Man measurement is that practiced by the Egyptian tomb artists for eons. They drew within the strictures of a regular grid. Every figure had to be one of an accepted number of cosmically informed proportions.
Innovation wasn’t an artistic merit in Old Egypt! How instructive though for the class to draw one of these, or similar, grids over the picture of a person. They might use head width and depth as a unit measurement.
Some amazing relationships can be found especially if one compares an infant’s grid with that of an adult. In Egypt, the grid assumed uniformity to some cosmic canon; the grid drawn in class assures individuality (never heard of in Egypt), demonstrating that both our image, and the reality of Man, have come a long way since then.
There are however ‘average’ head measurements; these are taught in art schools, where a normal male adult is 8 ‘heads’ high – a 4-year-old is a mere 4 heads, and so on. It will delight the children, when using this rough guide, to see how accurate the age of the person being drawn is. Being a middle (‘expression’) lesson, there can well afford to be lots of drawing.
Of the 3 Numeracy middle lesson strands, Man the Measure is expressed through the 3rd, the Applied Number, that which calls on the Will forces of the child. There is no more intelligent ‘will’ activity than to apply the dimensions and scale of the human being to the outer world – microcosm to macrocosm. The number relationships explored – or stumbled upon! – are not accidental, rather a confirmation that ‘the world is me, and I am the world’.
In this ‘application’ lesson, a general idea of statistics can be taught; in simple terms only, like ‘mean’ (average), and medium (middle). What is the mean height of the adult human being? What is the medium height?
The medium would fall halfway between the shortest and tallest people; the Congo Pygmies, and those cloud-scrapers living adjacent, the Watusi. How ironic, the same race and geographic (not climatic) circumstances produce these two incongruous folk! The medium could also be based on the smallest and tallest (adult) individual on record.
Man as a performer or achiever can also be illumined in this unit; like jumping distances, weightlifting and so on. (Man as a ‘time’ being, 4-minute mile, etc., was probably dealt with in Class 3.) Human dimensions can also include foot size, reach, hat size, hand breadth, and baby weight and length.
Heart and breath rhythms also interest children, especially when compared through the years, from baby to granddad. Testing the children’s lung capacity with a breath meter is a salutary exercise; giving part explanation at least to why “Carol’ is the best long-distance runner in the class. The results of these little tests of course shouldn’t be allowed to embarrass anyone.
You will bring out the latent cartoonist in the child by drawing extreme cases of head-chest-abdomen people. No matter how absurd the exaggeration (and it has to be thus, eliciting gales of laughter!), the caricatures still look like some people one sees out there. An example is Rudolf Steiner’s description of Goethe as a typical ‘sitzgross’ (big sitter!) – top-heavy with short legs.
Subliminal but timeless truths about the physical expression of thinking, feeling and will in Man will be ingested in this exercise. For instance; the 1st figure might be big on thinking, small on both feeling and will – s/he has a large head sitting atop a tiny chest and metabolic/limb system.
The small head/chest, big abdomen/limb looks like those truckin’ cartoons of the early ‘70s! Play around with the combination of forms, but don’t forget to present the balanced human being, we’re not all comic characters you know!
All sorts of scale phenomena can be taught to – or researched by – the children; such as the statistical fact that people have become markedly taller in the 20th Century. Apart from archeological evidence, this can be determined by army records. The average soldier in Australia today would tower over his/her World War I equivalent – and the diminutive Japanese are positively shooting up! Ratios of height-to-weight is good exercise material; include small, medium and large frame factors.
Physiological Numerology is a horrendous term, but contains a wealth of secrets. These, in veiled form, can be presented to the children, due to the assumption that no number fact, drawn by the unerring Elohim into the blueprint of Man, is arbitrary. This begins even with the ‘4 earth/limbs’ mentioned earlier.
There are for instance 7 Sense Windows in the head; 7 is the number, in Kabbalistic terms, of perfection. Indeed they are, representing as they do the 4 ‘bodies’ of Man: the mouth, that which receives ‘our daily bread’, is the Physical body window. This line in the Lord’s Prayer refers explicitly to the physical body.
The 2 nostrils are naturally the Etheric windows, serving the needs of the ‘air man’ as they do. Air is the element of the etheric body; both gas and ether were created on ancient Sun.
Ah, the eyes, those upon which we rly more than any other, in this particular age at least, are Astral. Their inner equivalent see clairvoyantly, peering directly into that kaleidoscopic realm of ever-changing image. The eyes are the water windows – even ‘Jesus wept’! Liquid is the astral element.
Finally the ears, situated as they are in the 4th longitudinal quarter of the head – the Ego zone. The ears are the ego organs. Their metaphysical equivalents, like 2 ram’s horns on the side of the head, are the organs of the Aries sense, that of Word. Only Man, the ego being, speaks – only Man perceives the Word.
There are subtle ways of describing these high secrets to children, without the esoteric argot. ‘But haven’t we deviated from maths?!’ I hear you protest. Not really, all phenomena presented must contain number facts. For instance, when describing the eyes, 2 sevenths of the head windows, we can compare them with a spider, which has eight eyes!
The 10 phalanges (fingers or toes) express a gnomic or mineral property. It is also the number of the Egyptian civilization, which was concurrent with that of the Hebrews, with their 10 Commandments. Think of every finger as a Commandment perhaps? 10-year-olds are of course reliving this cryptic age.
Ten fingers are on 2 hands; 2 is the number of duality, of parallelism. He have 2 feet, each containing 26 bones; this, times 2, is 52 – these Pisces (‘destiny’) organs have 52 bones to walk through the 52 weeks of the year. Children love this synchronicity – or is it serendipity!? Bones? The human being is born with 360, to dwell in a 360-day year!
360 days?! This is the ‘occult year’, the average day length over a Platonic Year of 25,920 years. We live in a particularly long day period at present, with our 365 ¼. By the time we are adults, many of these 360 bones have welded together, bringing the total to only about 200. The baby lives more harmoniously in the cosmic year than we bone-hard materialists!
Ah, and that organ of the ego itself, the spine: again the baby shows the numerical way, with its 33 separate vertebrae; the most sublime of numbers in Man – or the world. By adulthood, we only have 28 vertebrae, a moon number.
There are 12 sets of cranial nerves, which employ the spine as a vehicle to serve the whole body. These can be related to the 12-fold Zodiac of course. How about the 280 days of gestation? This is yet again a moon number; this planet being responsible for things genetic. 280 days is 10 x 28-day lunar months (9 sun months) – after all, the word month means moon, not sun!
There are also many ‘mystery numbers’: we eat 1080 meals per year – and have about 100,000 head hairs – and 32 teeth – and sleep about 2880 hours a year (compare ages again with these).
Children love having their heights measured; so a, say, 5x5cm dressed wooden measuring board should travel with the class through the years. It’s no good marking the heights on door jambs, because the class either moves, or someone paints it! A measuring stick begun n Class 1, can give figures for all kinds of time-height, mean-medium calculations. With 4 sides, you can fit all the class on the one stick – for 7 years!
The most important Man Measure is that of the Golden Section. Incredibly, almost all ratios in the average human being accord with this divine numerical principle, including length of had to width; hand to forearm; length to width of nose – and so on, ad infinitum. The spread-eagled Man is a pentagram, the Golden Mean marks off both person, and formal geometric figure.
What a wonder is Man, especially the Number Man; the subliminal and other implications for the child of this revolutionary lesson is that s/he was indeed created – ‘…in the image of God.’